Fr Vincent's reflections on the 1st Sunday of Lent 2021
Welcome to Lent! What is your plan for your Lenten journey?
Watch the video: Fr Vincent's reflections on the 1st Sunday of Lent
Read the text:
First Sunday of Lent (Feb. 21, 2021)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. R/. And with your spirit.
On this First Sunday of Lent, let us pray:
Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observances of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
Please pause this video and retrieve your Bible so you can follow along.
The Gospel today is Mark 1:12-15.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Gospel of the Lord. R/. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome to Lent! What is your plan for your Lenten journey? I imagine many of you are doing the usual practices: extra prayers; giving up different kinds of enjoyable foods or activities; trying to be nicer to the people around you; maybe increasing contributions to charities. All of this is wonderful, and I encourage everything you can do in this way to help yourself experience a good and productive Lent.
With this First Sunday’s reflection, maybe you and I can find more depth to our plans and practices that will make this Lent an opportunity better than we might at first think possible.
In Mark’s Gospel, right before today’s passage, Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. He did this because of his human need to make a commitment to his Heavenly Father so his earthly mission, his earthly life, would belong to God. Now the Holy Spirit compels him to head into the desert for forty days. He goes into deep and undistracted prayer so he can freely listen to his Father and learn God’s plan for his mission on earth. Yet, in spite of wanting to be fully focused on God, the Devil will not leave Jesus alone, but tempts him away from God’s mission. Even Jesus cannot avoid distraction in prayer, but God sends His angels to assist Jesus.
Lent, for you and me, is meant to be this “desert experience.” Let’s start with our re-commitment to our baptism. In baptism we die to this world and its attractions so that we can live for God and our spiritual life. So, now let us simply reaffirm our rejection of Satan and sin – “I reject everything contrary to the will of God” – and reaffirm our belief and commitment to God – “I believe in God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and I choose to live with them now and forever.” These are simple words and ideas, but if you and I begin each day of Lent with this re-commitment, then our daily activities will be more spiritually focused.
Now, let’s open our minds and hearts to God’s revelation of His plans for our lives: daily plans and life-long plans. “Lord, remove the distractions of my life so that You are the One I hear, I heed, and I follow.” Again, easy to say, but not so easy to do. This becomes a daily prayer, maybe even multiple times each day, because the distractions don’t simply disappear.
So, let’s name those distractions for ourselves. This is my battle with the devil the way Jesus had to contest with Satan in the desert. I want to pray more, but I don’t always feel like praying, so I procrastinate, maybe even creating distractions. Name this, and ask your guardian angel to help you overcome that negative feeling about prayer. If God sent angels to help Jesus, He certainly will allow our guardian angel to help us!
I know I must deny my physical wants to focus better on my spiritual relationship with God, so, again, name those wants – sweets, snacks, extra helpings, etc. – and say, “For the love of God I deny myself that He might be first in my life.” Say it over and over if you must to put down those cravings.
People can be a pain, that is the sad truth. But I’m a person, too. So if others bug me, we must admit that we bug them! If I want to be nicer to others, I need to be willing to see niceness in them. So, admit the pain, but ask God’s help to see the good. Then pray that God can help others to look pass the pain I cause to see my good, too. Looking for the good in others really helps me to be kinder and more compassionate. Name the good in the people around you, and you will start to respond with goodness toward them. The criticalness of judgment will fade away. “Lord, you place good in all people; help me to see what You see, and to show that goodness to the people around me.”
I never need as much as I think I need. If we are honest with ourselves, I think we can all admit this truth. Generosity is always challenged by the fear of not having what we need when we need it. But the response is: “Someone needs now what I have. If I give now, when I need, God will send my way what I have offered to others today.” We must deny ourselves if our generosity will flourish the way we really want. Again, regular recital of this prayer will bring us to the action we hope to perform.
So, you see, your Lenten plans are all good. But with a few words to ourselves and to God, we can look more deeply into ourselves and be fortified by grace to succeed in our activities this Lent. I’m adding a PDF file to the parish website (find the link right after the link to this video) – Daily Words and Prayers for Lent – which you can print and keep with you. I do pray for each of you to have a Desert Experience with Jesus that will bring you great joy in Easter re-birth!
The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit.
Bow down for the blessing.
May bountiful blessing, O Lord, we pray
come down upon your people,
that hope may grow in tribulation,
virtue be strengthened in temptation,
and eternal redemption be assured.
Through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.
And may the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, ✠ and the Holy Spirit,
come down on you and remain with you for ever. R/. Amen.